Meritas Care Corporation

Committed to Care

At an arranged luncheon in early 1998 between Fred Babbie and Norbert Warnke, two former senior executives of Central Park Lodges, a leading nursing and retirement home operator, Babbie expressed regret at “always being an employee, never an owner”. It so happened that two long-term care homes, Chateau Park (59 beds) and Regency Park (72 beds), based in Windsor, Ont., were for sale and, with the addition of Geoff Mills to the investor group, Meritas Care Corporation was incorporated to acquire the two homes. Meritas added its third home in 2008, purchasing Franklin Gardens (120 beds) in nearby Leamington, Ont.

Warnke, Babbie, and Mills bring nearly 100 years of collective experience to the business, noting that they established Meritas Care Corporation with a strong interest in remaining involved in the industry, and were not simply searching for an investment opportunity. The ownership group brings a hands-on approach that ensures continuous quality care and services.

When Meritas first acquired Chateau Park and Regency Park, the ownership group was still full-time employed, so the homes were managed after hours with Babbie taking the lead as managing director with Warnke and Mills in support roles. “Since I retired in 2004, I have taken on a much more active role with our organization, and [co-owners] Fred Babbie, as Chairman, and Geoff Mills are involved in strategy, oversight and in the direction and decision making process,” Norbert Warnke, President and CEO of Meritas Care Corporation, told The Canadian Business Journal.

From Day 1, the objective of Meritas Care Corporation has been to enhance the quality of life of each of its residents by offering the best possible individualized care and service. Meritas Care Corporation homes present a welcoming environment that encourages staff to make residents and their families feel at home. In fact, it is not uncommon for close bonds to form between staff and residents in developing a community-like atmosphere at any of the three long-term care homes. Quite simply, employees are like family to the residents.

Meritas Care Corporation recognizes that a demographic shift brought on by an aging population has increased the need for more long-term care beds to serve seniors with more complex care requirements.

“The business is a lot more challenging now than it ever was. When we first got involved in the industry, some residents were still driving their own car,” Babbie detailed. “Over the last 10 years, there has been tremendous change in these conditions where there are many more residents living with dementia and a range of physical limitations.”

Warnke added, “The industry is changing in that the government is promoting home care for those who can still be cared for at home and retirement homes are expanding personal support services. By the time they come to us, they need greater care. Also, the hospitals have long lists of seniors who no longer require acute care who could and should be transferred to a long-term care home where their needs can be better served. With decreased hospital funding there will be increased pressure for these seniors to be placed into long-term care. For all of the above reasons our care levels will increase quite dramatically over the next few years.”

Meritas Care Corporation is committed to delivering on its mission statement. The efforts of the organization are focused on continuous quality improvement programming, increased resident/family engagement through participation in on-site operations committees, meeting accreditation standards and Ministry of Health regulations. The on-site teams work closely with their peers and healthcare-based community organizations including the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network.

“But at the end of the day it’s all about the people, the home’s staff that care for the residents, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Without their dedication and commitment, Meritas could not hope to meet its objectives,” explained Babbie.

Meritas Care Corporation focuses on its management team and staff in building engagement and commitment to a common goal. The nimble size of the organization allows the owners to be more active and engaged in building the team and delivering on the corporation’s mission.